- Andrew Clements
Chamber opera in one act with prologue by Peter Maxwell Davies to his own libretto; Edinburgh, Moray House Gymnasium, 2 September 1980.
Davies’s second chamber opera is based on the unexplained desertion of the Flannan Isles lighthouse in 1900. After a prologue set in an Edinburgh courtroom, in which the officers who discovered the deserted lighthouse are questioned by a solo horn at the back of the auditorium, the main act, subtitled ‘The Cry of the Beast’, depicts the three keepers, Blazes (baritone), Sandy (tenor) and Arthur (bass), on their final evening. They eat supper, play cards and sing songs that reveal their characters and their backgrounds: brutalized Glasgow childhood, lost teenage love, revivalist guilt. When the lighthouse is surrounded by fog, their fears of the past surface; each encounters his own ghost, and hysteria takes over. While the foghorn sounds, they mistake the lights of an approaching ship for the eyes of a devouring beast. The keepers are replaced by the three officers, who imply that they have been attacked by the deranged men and were forced to kill them. A short coda reveals that the lighthouse is now automatic, but the ghosts of the keepers are seen, still endlessly reliving their final moments....